Today’s guestpost is by Jonny Scaramanga who blogs at Leaving Fundamentalism. One of Jonny’s areas of expertise is the teaching of creationists and he is perhaps the leading authority on the problems of ACE home school curriculum and learning systems, which teach creationism. On his blog, he also deals with other aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity. Be sure to visit there; it is one of my favorites.
Asking what Creationists teach is a bit like asking what Christians teach. It encompasses a lot of different doctrines. Broadly speaking, a Creationist is anyone who believes that God made the universe, which could include people who accept the theory of evolution, but think God started the process.
In the popular mind, though, “Creationist” almost always means “Christian Young-Earth Creationist“. These people believe that the book of Genesis is literally true. God initially made only two people, Adam and Eve, and everyone else is descended directly from them. The genealogies in Genesis are also literally true. You know, this stuff (KJV):
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech.
And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
In the 17th Century, Bishop Ussher added up all the ages in the Bible, and calculated that the Earth must have started in 4004 BC. It is assumed that the Bible is not only an accurate record of history, but a complete one. Since the Bible only tells us enough history to go back 6000 years, Young Earth Creationists tend to accept this as the approximate age of the Earth, although they are usually happy to allow a margin of error for the Earth to be up to 10,000 years old.
There are Old Earth Creationists, too. Sometimes they believe that there was a gap between Genesis 1:1 (God made the heavens and the Earth) and Genesis 1:2 (The earth was without form and void). The logic is that God would not make anything without form and void, so something must have happened. Some Old Earth Creationists place prehistoric creatures, including dinosaurs, in this gap. From Genesis 1:2 onwards, they accept the Young Earth Creationists’ account.
Other Old Earth Creationists accept the “day-age” theory, that each “day” in Genesis 1 was in fact a great epoch, so the Earth could be many millions of years old. Young Earth advocates like Answers in Genesis regard Old Earth theories as heretical compromises which question the authority of God’s Holy Word.
Why does this matter?
For Young Earth Creationists, what’s at stake is not just whether we’re descended from apes. To advocates like Kent Hovind, the entire truth of Christianity hangs on whether or not Genesis is true. There are a few reasons for this.
- It is believed that, if the Bible is the Word of God, it must have no mistakes. If we find a mistake in the Bible, it cannot be God’s Word, and that casts the entire Christian faith into doubt.
- Creationists claim that Jesus believed that Noah’s Flood was a literal event. If Jesus was wrong about Noah, Creationists think that would be a considerable blow to his claim to be divine. Their evidence is Matthew 24:37-39 (NIV).
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
- They also take Mark 10:6-9 as evidence that Jesus believed in a literal Adam and Eve (NIV):
But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
- On numerous occasions, the Apostle Paul appeared to refer to a literal Adam (eg Rom. 5:14; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:12-13). If Paul was wrong about that, he could have been wrong about anything. For strict fundamentalist Christians, who make up the majority of Young Earth Creationists, the whole faith rests on the inerrancy of Scripture. It simply cannot be countenanced that Paul might have made a mistake.
Things not in the Bible
Although Creationism claims to be all about believing only that which is written in the Bible, in practice, Creationists make many claims not mentioned in Scripture. Here are some things commonly believed by Creationists, but not mentioned in Scripture:
- The Grand Canyon was carved out by receding waters after Noah’s Flood.
- A canopy of water vapour surrounded the Earth before the flood, creating a uniform tropical climate with no rain.
- The speed of light has slowed down since Creation.
- Dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. (Creationists argue that Biblical references to Leviathan and Behemoth are, in fact, references to dinosaurs)
Some Creationists make some extremely wild claims. The fundamentalist curriculum Accelerated Christian Education claims that the Loch Ness Monster exists, and this disproves evolution. Bill Cooper B.A. (hons), of England’s Creation Science Movement, claims that dinosaurs existed in Wales as recently as the start of the 20th century. Carl Baugh claims that fossilised dinosaur tracks exist beside human footprints in the Paluxy river bed, Texas.
It would be wonderful to believe these things, but sadly most scientists (and even most Creationists) accept that these are fanciful. But creationists are bent on trying to disprove evolution. Why is this so important?